The RAIN project

A radical change to existing nuclear research programmes and initiatives

The nuclear industry has some of the most extreme environments in the world, with radiation levels and extremely harsh conditions restraining human access to many facilities.

Yet to date, robotic systems have had very little impact on the industry, even though it is clear that they offer major opportunities for improving productivity and significantly reducing risks to human health.

The RAIN initiative has been created to address these issues by developing the advanced robotics and artificial intelligence that will be essential for future nuclear operations. Their adoption will have the potential to completely transform the nuclear industry globally.

At the same time it is envisaged that the reliable, functional robotic systems that are the programme’s goal will also have important applications in other sectors. These will extend beyond extreme environments such as space exploration, in-orbit satellite design, offshore operations and mining to include less challenging areas where RAIN research will be highly relevant, such as healthcare and autonomous vehicles.

The programme’s overall objectives are to lower costs within the nuclear industry, reduce timescales, reduce risk, improve safety, promote remote inspection and reduce the chances of human exposure to radiation and other hazards. Once developed, the technologies that will help to realise these objectives are to form the foundation of a world-leading robotic and AI research and innovation ecosystem.

Funding

RAIN is funded by EPSRC and brings together eight teams of robotic and nuclear engineering experts from The University of Manchester (project lead), Lancaster University, The University of Oxford, The University of Liverpool, The University of Sheffield, The University of Bristol, The University of Nottingham and RACE (Robotics and Remote Applications in Challenging Environments).

Industry partners

RAIN is intricately linked with nuclear partners across the industry.

These include:

  • Major end users such as Sellafield, EDF Energy, AWE and Rolls Royce.
  • Organisations of all sizes across the nuclear supply chain such as Createc, Jacobs, Nuvia and James Fisher Nuclear.
  • International partners such as US National Labs and various US universities, the Italian Institute of Technology and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Widespread benefits

Benefitting people and society

By facilitating remote inspection, RAIN’s technologies will bring about major improvements to nuclear health and safety. It will do this by reducing significantly – and hopefully eliminating altogether – the exposure of people working in the industry to radiation and other hazards.

Remote inspection will also have the potential to improve the life-span of the UK’s existing nuclear reactor fleet, helping to secure the country’s future energy provision.


Benefitting the economy

RAIN will benefit the UK economy by improving nuclear industry productivity (by a targeted 20%) and reducing the cost of decommissioning the UK’s nuclear legacy sites by as much as £11.78 billion.

Then, by extending its research to cover non-nuclear applications, the programme will ultimately create a vibrant commercial market for RAI technologies across the world.


Increasing knowledge

The scientific and engineering advances that RAIN will deliver will inform and benefit national and international research efforts.


Creating jobs

More than half of the UK’s nuclear workforce is expected to retire before 2025. Consequently, there is an urgent need to attract more people into the sector.

RAIN will provide comprehensive training for more than 25 post-doctoral researchers and many associated PhD students. Furthermore, large numbers of under graduate and post graduate students will be made aware of the challenges and opportunities offered by the nuclear industry through individual and group research projects.